Books by Nanette Mellage

Released: April 1, 2001

Josh Gibson was sometimes known as the Babe Ruth of the Negro Leagues. Of course, in some circles, Babe Ruth was known as the Josh Gibson of the Major Leagues. And therein lies the heart of the matter. Although they might have played against each other during barnstorming games, they could never play together in the same league. Here a fictitious elderly man relates to his grandson his boyhood memories of one particularly exciting series of games early in Gibson's career, when his appearance at the plate led to the cheers "Thunder's coming." Some of these games took place at Yankee Stadium, and grandfather was there with his father. The book begins with a brief explanation of the segregated leagues, a description of Gibson's abilities, and an account of the series between the Homestead Grays and the New York Lincoln Giants, before focusing on grandfather's recounting of the final game. The "memories" of the game are nicely detailed as the excitement builds and Gibson performs a feat never accomplished before or since. He hit a homerun completely out of Yankee Stadium. (Naturally, this is an unrecognized accomplishment, as it did not happen during a regulation major-league game.) The softly colored illustrations nicely accompany the text. One arresting illustration captures the fans' reactions as Pop nervously twists his cap as he awaits Gibson's turn at bat. The mixture of factual material and fictional memories is not always successful. Too much of Gibson's life is left for the author's notes and may be missed by young readers. Buried in these notes is the especially poignant fact that Gibson died of a stroke at the early age of 35, only a few months before Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color line in 1947. Gibson had always hoped and believed it would happen and did not live to see it. In the end we have a charming vignette of a figure who has been neglected in baseball lore for children, when we could have had a powerful, moving story. Still, it's a start. (Picture book. 7-10)Read full book review >